The Role of Ethnicity in Cardiovascular Disease

Dr. Milan Gupta, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist, discusses the role of ethnicity in cardiovascular disease.

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Dr. Milan Gupta, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist, discusses the role of ethnicity in cardiovascular disease.
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Featuring Dr. Milan Gupta, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist The Role of Ethnicity in Cardiovascular Disease - Cardiologist Duration: 3 minutes, 27 seconds

We know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in Canada and around the world, in fact.

And over the past 15 or 20 years, we've learned that your ethnic origin actually influences your risk of developing and dying from heart disease. So where you're from and how you live your life is very important.

There has been a lot of research done in the past several decades that shows uniformly that people of South Asian origin are at clearly higher risk for developing heart disease. Not only developing heart attack and stroke, but doing so at an earlier age.

This research comes out of South Asian countries like India and so on, but we're seeing the same pattern now amongst immigrants from South Asia to places like the United Kingdom, North America, and specifically in Canada.

We think that part of this risk is genetically determined, but part of it is clearly based on how we live our lives. And we know that lifestyle is so incredibly important in preventing the development of heart disease in all populations.

In South Asia specifically, though, the risk factors for heart disease – things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle – these risk factors develop earlier in life in South Asians and thus, that leads to an earlier onset of heart disease.

So, one of the risk factors for heart disease that we're always talking about is obesity. And when we think about obesity, we really have to think about two different types of fat tissue. We all have subcutaneous fat, the fat that accumulates under our skin. We don't like it, but it's actually not very toxic from a medical standpoint.

But then we also develop deeper abdominal fat – that's the fat deep in the belly that lines many of our vital organs. And that fat actually is toxic; that fat is what leads to an increased risk for heart disease, for diabetes and even for certain cancers.

Now South Asians seem to be more prone to developing deep abdominal fat than white Caucasians. If you had two similar populations – one white Caucasian, one South Asian – they're the same age, same size, exposed to the same lifestyle, same diet, same level of exercise – the South Asian will develop the deep abdominal fat more easily at an earlier age.

We don't quite understand why certain populations like South Asians are more prone to developing this deep toxic fat tissue, but we do know that that's probably one of the primary reasons for why South Asians are at heightened risk.

Well, certainly if you are interested in learning more about the role of ethnicity and cardiovascular disease or if you are concerned about your own personal risk, the most important first step is to contact your family physician and have a discussion with them and undergo a comprehensive risk assessment.

Presenter: Dr. Milan Gupta, Cardiologist, Brampton, ON

Local Practitioners: Cardiologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.